What’s your firm’s batting average?

We did pretty well at a leading PR industry awards program last week. Of the six programs we submitted for judging, two were named finalists. And, of those two, one won an award. So, if this particular awards' program embraced transparency, they'd have listed Peppercom's batting average as follows:

 .333 (for programs nominated)
 .500 (for finalists that won)
Sadly, there isn't ANY transparency in ANY industry awards program. And, that's a shame because, as last week's event made clear to anyone in attendance, the large agencies TOTALLY dominate the proceedings.


It got so bad that, in one category, the finalists for the 'best of' award were: “Edelman, Edelman, Ketchum, Edelman and Ketchum”. Needless to say, there was tremendous suspense as 1,000 or so attendees held our collective breath to hear the happy news: “And, the winner is… Ketchum!” Oh happy days!
Not only do the large agencies dominate every category, they also submit the same program again and again and again. The IBM Watson/Ketchum program was PR's version of 'The Artist.' It must have won 11 awards, including 'Best Screenplay by a Computer'.

The various PR awards' organizers refuse to level the playing field and fix the outrageous inequities by charging large agencies a lot more money per submission. They won't though. They say only the best programs win in each category. Maybe. Maybe not. When one is evaluating the 16th submission from Burson in the B-to-B category, one's eyes tend to glaze over.
So, rather than fix the fee structure, I have an alternative suggestion:
Our industry prides itself on authenticity and transparency, correct?

If so, why not publish everyone's batting average for the night? So, while Ketchum and Edelman may have won seven or eight awards each, it would be fascinating to know how many entries each submitted
Large agencies pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into the awards process. I know this for a fact, having served as a judge for PRSA, PR News, PR Week, The Holmes Report and others, In fact, I vividly recall reviewing a single category comprised of 80 entries overall. Get this: half of the submissions came from two large agencies. That's just, plain wrong.
So, how about it? How about publishing a post awards scorecard that looks something like this:
1.) Ketchum:
 - Total submissions: 101.
 - Total finalists: 11.
 - Batting average: .100
2.) Edelman:
 - Total submissions: 3,521.
 - Total finalists: 17.
 - Batting average: .003
3.) Padilla Spear Beardsley:
 - Total submissions: 3.
 - Total finalists: 1.
 - Batting average: .333
If the playing field were truly level, we'd see who the night's REAL winners were.

11 thoughts on “What’s your firm’s batting average?

  1. Pingback: A Cup of Lee | Awards Season

  2. It’ll take a whole new generation of big agency and industry trade media management to fix the problem. The current crop benefit so much from the broken model that there’s no incentive for them to fix it.

  3. Of course. I mean to say that I will not overlook or discount smaller agencies for not having the plethora of awards some of the the larger agencies have.
    With such an inherent flaw in the awards process, I wonder what it will take to even the playing field…

  4. Thanks for the comment, Brooke. I’m not belittling the success of the large agencies. I’m pointing out the inherent flaws in the awards’ programs that allow them to dominate each and every category each and every year. They’re merely taking advantage of the system. The organizers are to blame. Not the mega agencies.

  5. Thanks for the insight into PR awards, Steve. As a recent graduate new to the industry, I was unaware of the politics that go into the awards process. I now know not to put too much stake into how many accolades a firm has received and can look at the recognition with a little more perspective.

  6. Thanks NickKalm. I’m amazed the awards’ organizers don’t sort this out and level the playing field once and for all. Your note is a great example of the end result of their short-sighted practice. They alienate great small and medium-sized firms who lack the time and money to crank out hundreds of submissions every year. Who wants to attend an event in which six or seven firms account for 75 percent of the finalists up for awards? Boring.

  7. Steve,
    Bravo for saying what needed to be said. This is why we’ve submitted one award in our 10-year history (for what we and others thought was a terrific crisis management case study — mass murder, is there a bigger crisis than that?) and lost. Ergo, our batting average = .000. The winner? Ketchum — for an industrial accident.
    I guess I have to hand it to the award organizers. They have to make money somehow and this is as good a way as any. But, the time and effort to submit…knowing that the award givers and judges…(ahem)…heavily favor the large firms, it’s just not worth it.

  8. Thanks Mike. Really appreciate it. The inequities in our awards programs are one of our industry’s inconvenient truths.

  9. Steve:
    Excellent post. I couldn’t agree more. Ironically, transparency is something we preach to our clients, but something our industry is also still struggling with itself. Keep up the good work!
    Mike Paul
    The Reputation Doctor®
    MGP & Associates PR

  10. If it’s any comfort at all…
    As a former client of PR firms, I can tell you that I have never cared about these awards. It was never a deal-breaker regarding which agency I chose to hire for a campaign.